Does CBD Relieve Pain?
If you’re here, it’s for the right reasons. You’ve probably heard conflicting information about CBD. Maybe you’ve talked to a friend about how it has helped him or her with pain. First-hand stories are very valuable, but you’re smart and savvy enough to know to seek some confirmation and further detail. Perhaps you’re just done with using pharmaceuticals for your arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other chronic pain. You seek something natural.
That’s why we’ll take a detailed look at the science behind pain, pain relief, and CBD (cannabidiol). We’ll examine medical studies and search for hard-and-fast proof of CBD’s value in helping with pain.
Does CBD Relieve Pain?: What We Need To Know
- How Does Pain Relief Work?
Let’s not make the mistake of discussing how CBD achieves pain relief without discussing pain relief itself. This means a quick look at where pain comes from. The key to this question is inflammation. Sota Omouigi, MD, tells us, “[e]very pain syndrome has an inflammatory profile.” Whether it’s fibromyalgia, arthritis, back pain, or a bad headache, there’s inflammation. Inflammation happens when a number of white blood cells flood the blood stream, causing intense blood flow to a particular part of the body. All of these chemicals, found in white blood cells, can leak into tissues, and that’s where swelling (inflammation) comes from—and then pain.
- What Does CBD Have to Do With Inflammation?
What fixes inflammation? The answer is something found naturally in the human body: cannabinoids. Yes, cannabinoids occur naturally in the body, as do their receptors. They are anti-inflammatory. CBD is a synthetic cannabinoid and is also known as a phytocannabinoid, a cannabinoid that comes from a plant. When it enters the body, it causes the system to produce more natural cannabinoids, meaning relief to inflammation. One of the main upsides to cannabidiols (what CBD stands for) is that they are natural, without harmful effects like those caused by acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and are not addictive, like opioids.
What Types of Pain Does CBD Help?
One tidbit about CBD is that it can serve as timely relief for serious headaches or body aches, including flu-like symptoms. However, many people who turn to it do so for chronic pain associated with diagnosed illnesses. It is known to get results with these serious conditions:
- Dravet’s Syndrome (pediatric epilepsy)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
There is medical evidence pointing to CBD’s positive effects with all of these. Let’s go through each one.
- Dravet Syndrome
Dravet Syndrome is a rare form of Epilepsy. It is also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy. This terrible disease plays a big role in the widespread use of CBD for pain. In 2000, the parents of a little girl named Charlotte turned to a strain of cannabis with nearly no THC and a high concentration of CBD to help easing their daughter’s suffering. Charlotte suffered Dravet Syndrome and was having 300 seizures a day; she’d lost the ability to eat, talk, and even walk. Upon using CBD oil, Charlotte’s parents found her seizures stopped, so they began giving it to her regularly. Years later, she is now riding a bike and similarly functioning like any child, with very rare seizures.
This was not only an amazing breakthrough for this family, but for sufferers of pain everywhere. It put CBD on the map as a great natural remedy.
Now, CBD is well-known as a treatment for Dravet Syndrome. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that, with 120 subjects who had the syndrome, seizures were reduced from 12.4 per month to 5.9. The control group who were given a placebo (which contains no active medicine) had no significant decrease. In 2018, the FDA approved use of CBD for Dravet Syndrome, as well as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, another type of epilepsy that affects infants.
This affliction drives thousands of people each year to seek alternative remedies, such as medical marijuana or CBD. It is made up of brutal musculoskeletal pain, and has widespread negative effects on someone suffering it.
Fibromyalgia is driven by inflammation, and we’ve seen how CBD fixes inflammation.
Clinical studies also show that CBD cuts down on pain transmitted through spinal and peripheral mechanisms in Fibromyalgia. In other words, we know down to fine details how CBD works. Without getting into a class from Med School, let’s quickly note that CBD shuts down the work of glial cells, which are basically pain amplifiers.
As you probably know, arthritis is all about joint pain, and that’s all about inflammation. You’ve learned that one of the main functions of CBD is cutting down inflammation. Not only does it do so, but CBD also protects against nerve damage in joints. This is why an authority as big as the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network endorses the use of CBD oil for arthritis pain.
- Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s Disease entails inflammation of the bowels. There’s the “I” word—inflammation—again. Israeli researchers conducted a study with 46 participants. Sixty-five percent of those using CBD oil experienced a full removal of symptoms, which include stomach pain, fever, and severe diarrhea. Here we see that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are thorough, and that they help a person beyond what we would strictly define as pain relief.
- Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis is a serious condition in which messages in the central nervous system do not flow properly. A 2018 article in the journal Frontiers in Neurology asserts that CBD is “advisable” to those suffering MS, “to reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity, and ultimately improve mobility.” As was the case with Arthritis, CBD is enthusiastically recommended by multiple organizations and publications devoted to improving the lives of people with a particular condition, in this case, MS. We can’t overstate the importance of this.
People suffering from chronic, frequent headaches—migraines—are likely candidates to seek out a natural remedy. No one should take over-the-counter analgesics (Tylenol, Aleve, Aspirin, etc.) on an ongoing, daily basis. The research we’ve referred to so far shows the way in which CBD relieves pain. The stopping of glial cells, protection of nerves, and anti-inflammation all go toward helping with migraines. We’re not able to show much in the way of medical studies focusing on Migraines, per se. It’s best to rely on the above information on how CBD works. Success stories from migraine sufferers are easy to find, and you may know people who have used cannabidiols for this reason. Experienced users of CBD know that it works as a reliable pain reliever for nagging pain such as what migraine sufferers experience.
What Forms Do CBD Come In?
When people discuss CBD, they’re usually referring to CBD oil. This is extracted from the hemp plant. A common method to extract the oil is to soak the plant in a liquid like some type of alcohol. The CBD then swims into the liquid and that creates the oil. The oil then goes into common into a few common forms.
Sometimes you’ll see CBD in old-fashioned pill form, but more commonly you’ll find gel caps or softgels. The gel caps are usually made from vegetable cellulose or gelatin. You can find capsules in doses as low as 10 mg and as high as 150 mg. Of course, when you take a capsule, the casing has to break down first, which causes a delay in the working of the CBD. Your digestive system will break down the CBD. So, while CBD in this form is very effective, you get a bit less power per mg with capsules than in pure oil form.
The way to take in pure CBD oil is through a tincture. This is a little bottle with a dropper. The user puts drops of the oil under her tongue, leaving it there for roughly 90 seconds. With this method, results are faster, and it absorbs better into the blood stream.
Tinctures often contain 5-15 mg of CBD per serving, and many people start off with about 50 mg per day. Note, we’ll discuss the right dosage for pain later in the post.
One interesting fact about tinctures is that you can add some drops to a smoothie or even use in baking. And that brings us to probably the easiest way to take in CBD, edibles.
If you’ve been in a local shop that sells CBD products and you’ve seen gummy candies in psychedelic colors, those are CBD in edible form. You can readily find CBD in cookies, brownies, suckers, and long tubes of honey, which is often infused with flavors like raspberry or strawberry. These also vary in terms of mg per serving. These products might be best for people with temporary pain or for other uses, such as anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties. Some people use edibles for help sleeping.
These are the most common forms of CBD. But let’s note that it is also available in concentrate crystals, mints, and vape kits. Who knows how many other forms will follow?
How Much Should I Take For Pain Relief?
One thing about the use of CBD that people should remember is that there is no such thing as overdosing on it. That does not mean one should just dive in with large quantities, only that one should be sure to use enough to match the pain.
The use of CBD for chronic pain and some of the serious medical conditions we described above is different for taking it for depression, insomnia or for mental clarity. CBD relieves pain only when it is used in a quantity that is sensible but still large enough to be adequate. Also, one must realize that when starting, it may take a week for the natural remedy to work properly.
For intense and long-lasting pain, such as that from fibromyalgia or arthritis, a good rule of thumb may be to roughly 25 mg, twice per day. You may wish to build up to this, starting at approximately 10 twice per day.
However, anyone with a condition such as epilepsy, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis should be in close consultation with a doctor, particularly before integrating CBD into your treatment.
While it is impossible to overdose on CBD, one should never take too much of any supplement or remedy. CBD may put you to sleep if you take too much in too short a time. Excessive use can cause light-headedness, as well as reduced decreased fertility and lower activity of B and T cells.
Learn How CBD Works for You
Most CBD users follow an approach of either using the recommended dosage that will be printed on whatever type of CBD product you choose or starting at about a third of this dosage and working up. Most people spread the use of CBD out two or even three times per day. Also, many users find that the effects begin to kick in about a half and hour to forty-five minutes after use, with tinctures being faster for most people than capsules.
The reason people tend to have an approach of intelligently monitoring their dosage and settling on what works is that everyone is different when it comes to effects.
One difference between people that impacts how well CBD does in relieving pain is their level of CB1 receptors. Remember, we explained that we have cannabinoids in our system. This means we also have receptors. Some people have more receptive receptors than others. You will have heightened CB1 receptors if you
- Smoke nicotine
- Exercise regularly
- Have a diet heavy in omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), which comes from fish and walnuts and olive oil and similar “good fats”
- Drink alcohol or use products containing THC regularly or in proximity to taking CBD.
Now, we are not recommending any of these behaviors as a way of enhancing one’s receptors. But these factors explain why some people will have different reactions that others. This means that you have to try CBD and adjust as appropriate to get to the right dosage.
What makes CBD so effective and such a great natural pain remedy is that it has no side effects. Above, we mentioned a few slightly unwanted qualities that come from taking too much, but those are far from side effects.
How Does CBD Make You Feel?
We cannot stress enough that CBD does not get you “high.” To review, this is because it contains no THC, which is the ingredient in marijuana that causes a high. In fact, CBD is not categorized as psychoactive. Therefore, when you take it, you aren’t “impaired” the same way is you’d be with Vicodin that your dentist might prescribe.
We’ve been focusing on the pain relieving qualities of CBD. That goes a long way in explaining how you’ll feel while using it. For many sufferers of pain, that is all you’ll ask. However, people may worry that they’ll feel “drugged” or giggly or something similar. While none of these things are common under normal circumstances, many CBD users report feeling some relaxation, calm, or mildly-pleasant sensations.
On the one hand, it is hard to go from having migraines or muscular pains to not having them and not feel better emotionally. On the other, while CBD isn’t officially “psychoactive,” it is thought to have antidepressant properties, and often reduces stress in users. It tends to produce a mellow or peaceful feeling and some muscle relaxation. It’s the best of both worlds, feeling pleasant but not impaired.
Is CBD Addictive?
In our culture, we’ve come to expect that anything that relieves pain will also be addictive. People worry about becoming dependent and then going through horrific withdrawals when they try to quit. You don’t have to worry about this with CBD, since the World Health Organization mounted trials, summarized in this annual report, and found that there is no potential for dependence or abuse of CBD.
This is one reason that CBD is one of the things people turn to as a way of breaking an addiction to opioids. Now, it isn’t just that people enjoy the pain-relief benefits of CBD and don’t need opioids. It goes beyond that. A 2019 study returned the landmark finding that CBD use decreases cravings for heroin and other opioids.
We see that through some simple mechanisms, that not only does CBD relieve pain but does so in some instances where prescription medications don’t work. It provides relief of serious medical conditions, according to medical studies. We also see that CBD does these things without causing a “high” that might make people feel nervous about using it at work or in similar situations. Finally, CBD, a substance that is present in our bodies naturally, does all its good work without being addictive.
There can be no question as to whether or not CBD helps with chronic pain. It is then up to adults with pain-relief needs to consult with a doctor and monitor their experience with CBD to create the best results. As we explored, results, even if scientifically proven, can vary slightly.